Walking to School, Non U.S.-edition

From zbtryyazff
my mailbox:

Dear Free-Range Kids:  I’ve been living outside of the US for about 10 years now and am shocked at the increasing persecution of parents back home.  We live in Switzerland and have a child about to enter Kindergarten.  Funny thing is, the parents have been instructed that they can walk the child to class for the first two weeks but after that, the child needs to go on his or her own – how else will they learn to become self-sufficient?! 

In line with that thinking, the neighborhoods take responsibility for the children – driving safely around crossing areas, offering help to the kids if they seem to need it.  It’s a great system and we love that even the kids watch out for each other.  It reminds me of what it was like (all those) years ago when I was a kid – we got ourselves to school, on weekends played outside all day (only coming in for a quick bite to eat) and we knew that any mom around could step in if we stepped out of line.  I think it not only builds self-esteem but builds a sense of community to boot.

Lenore here: I think so, too. And I think that the opposite –kids NOT walking to school or playing outside — corrodes community. Kids become scarce, play dries up, fear takes hold and distrust grows. And then distrust just makes us mean and crazy. But, that’s why we’re here: to reverse that trend! – L



50 Responses to Walking to School, Non U.S.-edition

  1. SKL July 18, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    By coincidence, I was just in Zurich last week with my kids. We were in the middle of a tour of 9 countries. The kids wanted to go swimming, so we asked where kids could swim, and they told us there was a great place for kids to swim, just a short walk from the hotel. We walked and walked, and every time we asked someone where the great swimming place was, they’d say “just a five minute walk from here.” LOL. Well unfortunately, once we finally got there the place was closed for repairs, but people told us the kids could actually swim anywhere they wanted to in the lake. (Different from here, where there are designated places for swimming, boating, fishing, and “no anything.”) We picked a nearby rocky spot between a dock and a willow tree and the kids had a cold swim. (One loved it, the other hated it because of the uneven rocky ground.) Eventually a swan came hissing and we got out to start the long walk back.

    The trip to Europe in general showed how much more comfortable folks are with walking more than a few blocks. And naturally, I think, that translates to being comfortable with kids walking everywhere.

    My kids were not so pleased with that aspect of our trip (the long walks). LOL. Personally I really enjoyed it and hope to continue it as much as possible at home. When I was a kid and a university student, I walked for miles every day just to get a change of scene. I see no good reason why my kids should not do the same.

  2. K July 18, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    At our school, it’s a week for kindergarteners, then they have to go on their own. Partly because it’s just too crowded with that many people in the hallways, and partly because a K student should be able to walk 100 feet to the classroom unassisted. What’ kills me is the number of parents at the other school in the area that block traffic or park in a fire line or bus stop to walk their kid into school!

  3. kate July 18, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    It is funny how our perception of distance has changed. We live one mile from the elementary school. People were so surprised that I walked with my kindergarten son that long way. A mother who used to see us walking later told me that she thought we were too poor to have a car. It still amazes me that there is a bus stop probably a tenth of a mile from the school. I still see mom waiting with her 8 year old. All they have to do is cross the street to the sidewalk and you can see the school.

  4. SKL July 18, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    I took the OP as saying KG kids walk *from home* to school alone – not just walk into the school to the classroom alone. I don’t know many people who walk their kids in the door and through the school halls, other than in unusual circumstances. Of course in my area, there are still kids who walk themselves to the bus stop etc….

  5. Tiny Tim July 18, 2014 at 11:15 am #

    I lived in Zurich as a kid. I walked myself to and from school (maybe 1/3 mile?) when I was in 1st grade. Some days I walked myself to after school tutoring in german and then home. Some days I walked myself over to my classmate’s house to play after school. Her mother was working and wasn’t home. She was cute and gave me smurfs. I wonder what happened to her.

  6. Papilio July 18, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Yes, of course the children are expected to walk to school from *home*. It would’ve been ridiculous to hold this story up as a non-American FRK story when it’s only about kids walking themselves from the sidewalk into their classrooms!!!

    Anyway, this goes to show that 8-9 years old is rather late to start walking/cycling to school independently…

    @SKL: Being European myself, I want to know more! 🙂 Which 9 countries?

  7. nina July 18, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    We live in NY state and here elementary schools have the same rules regarding kindergarteners. In fact I believe we were allowed to deliver our child to the classroom door only for a week or so. It didn’t matter anyway, because he took a school bus and his older brother helped him for a first few days to find his classroom. We don’t see many K to 2nd grade walkers (though they are allowed) but it becomes popular from 3rd grade up. By middle school ( 5 to 8 grade) dismissal is no longer supervised and a lot of kids who would take a bus in the morning choose to walk home if the weather is nice. We live about 3 miles from the school and on days when my boys don’t have after school activities they often walk home. I don’t think it only happens in Switzerland.

  8. SKL July 18, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Papilio, it depends how you define “country,” but here is the list. Most of the travel between countries was by train.

    Greece (Athens, Mykonos, Santorini)
    Italy (Rome)
    Vatican City
    Austria (Salzburg)
    Switzerland (Zurich)
    France (Paris)
    England (London)
    Scotland (Edinburgh)
    N. Ireland (Belfast)
    Ireland (Dublin)

    Not bad for a 2-week working vacation with kids ….

    Netherlands is on our list of things to do, but we couldn’t squeeze it into this trip.

  9. lollipoplover July 18, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    “Kids become scarce, play dries up, fear takes hold and distrust grows. And then distrust just makes us mean and crazy.”

    My daughter has biked to school since she was 5. She does it with siblings and friends. She also bikes to swim practice every day. At 8, she is smart and independent with self-esteem to spare. Yet yesterday she was a “helpless little girl”, according to two joggers when she was walking alone on a sidewalk trying to help me catch our escapee-foster-fail dog. (He is a world class digger and loves to eat holes in my wooden fence and chase bunnies, squirrels, and birds all over the neighborhood. We are his 4th home. I expect sainthood for this one…)

    When our Houdini dog escapes, the kids and I devise a trap plan to cover his favorite area by the creek. The older kids drive him out of the creek bed towards my truck. My daughter was walking alone on the sidewalk on her way to the creek when I approached her in the truck to give her the leash she needed. She leaned in to talk to me and that’s when the joggers ran over to intervene. They said they were very scared because they saw a girl all alone and in danger.
    She just forgot her leash! No danger, but could you help us find our dog?

    And they did. They were actually nice ladies who were looking out for her and what this mom in Switzerland means by other parents offering help if needed. But she didn’t need help. They had a dog too, one who chased critters and helped in the search. An older man who came outside (it was early!) ultimately grabbed the dog and my helped son leashed him. We will be dropping off some cookies to him later tonight.
    The irony of the creeper pedophile *have you seen my dog?* profile only hit me later.

    But I hate, hate, hate that that my daughter is seen as a helpless little girl. She is capable of so much, not to mention a world-class dog catcher. I want others to look out for her, but keep these irrational fears in check, please.
    Alone does not equal danger.
    Danger equals danger.

  10. Michelle July 18, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    I used to walk .2 mile from home to church with my kids, and nearly every time people would stop and ask if we were ok or needed help. These days I walk .6 mile to the grocery store on a regular basis, and people are often shocked. The local elementary school is only .5 mile, and my kids walk down there whenever they want to play on the playground (even though they are homeschooled), but kids who live closer than us used to take the bus before the school stopped picking up in our neighborhood. Honestly, these are all distances of less than a mile. It’s insane that this is considered a “long” way. My husband and I walk 2 miles every morning just for the fun of it, and 3 when we have time.

  11. Tiny Tim July 18, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    It is mystifying that so many people think “a mile” is an extravagant distance. It’s a 22 minute walk at an averageish gait.

  12. Carole July 18, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    I love your blog Lenore. My husband and I are trying to raise our 11 year old son and 8 year old as most as possible as free range kids here in Ottawa Canada. Our son has been walking to school since he was 9 (about a 20 minute walk to school from our house) and soon our daughter will be permitted to walk with him as well. While no one wants to use their kids as experiments in social re-engineering, I think that equipping kids with good information and road safety rules and tips will go a long way to make them self-sufficient. How else will our roads become safter if we don’t allow our younger generation to take up their space in our public spaces? Keep up the good work!

  13. Donna July 18, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    “I don’t know many people who walk their kids in the door and through the school halls, other than in unusual circumstances.”

    That is extremely common at my daughter’s school. Almost all the parents who walk their children to school – everyone from walking zone since almost no child walks independently – walk all the way to the classroom. They do this well beyond pre-k and kindergarten and for the entire year.

    “how else will they learn to become self-sufficient?”

    The thing is that I have come to realize that many (most?) American parents don’t actually want their children to be self-sufficient. Sure, most want them on their own eventually – like after college graduation – but they really don’t want them to be self-sufficient as children.

  14. Donna July 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

    Also, I have as much problem with a school telling a parent that they can’t walk their child to school as I do with telling a parent that they must walk their child to school. How a child gets to the door of the school is simply none of the school’s business.

    I walked my child to school for road safety reasons last year, but I also really enjoyed it. It was a nice together time for us. She wants to walk herself this year (and I think she can now cross the death-trap street safely) so I will let her, but I will very much miss our morning walks and would be more than happy to continue walking with her despite her ability to do it herself if she wasn’t opposed.

  15. NicoleK July 18, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    I live in Switzerland, too, but here they have Pedibuses, where groups of kids gather and walk to school together in the company of an adult… the parents take turns.

    I’m thinking I’ll do it the first six months or so, not because of safety, but to meet the other parents and so my kid can get to know the other kids. Then after that she can decide if she wants to keep doing it or walk on her own.

  16. Nadine July 18, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

    Making the streets save is all in city and traffic planning. To develop standards that work best for every kind of traffic participant and protects the most vunrable. How is it that when there is a problem it doesnt get fixed but only blame gets dispersed and people go for a work around. Boggles my mind.

  17. Kathleen July 18, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    I recently moved from NYC to the suburbs. I went out recently to walk to the CVS (.25 miles away, all with sidewalks) with my infant in a sling. We walked far longer distances than this in the city where, of course, no one ever gave us a second glance. I barely made it to the end of my block before a stranger rolled down her window to offer us a ride. While I’m sure she was a lovely lady motivated by nothing but kindness, I just can’t imagine a mindset in which *taking a walk* is considered such a burden that it would be preferable to put a baby in a car with no car seat!

  18. marie July 18, 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    When my kids were in grade school, the after school pickup time was a lively social time for the parents. We all arrived early (ostensibly to get parking but really for the chance to socialize). That included many, many parents in the neighborhood, some of whom walked from home so they could walk the kids home.

    We lived over six miles from school so our reason for driving the kids to and from was clear. The neighborhood parents, in my opinion, thought it was ‘best’ not to let their kids walk themselves. I don’t remember talking about it so my assumption that they were all afraid of abductions may not be accurate. (I think it was, though.)

    We all loved the time to see other moms and dads and catch up on news. Just as I loved swimming lessons and soccer practice…this was how I got to know other parents. Made many friends that way. PTO was a great way to make friends.

    On the other hand, our kids would have benefited from swim lessons without mom and dad watching, and from soccer without us handing out juice boxes, and from walking with their friends (or walking alone and daydreaming) to and from school. (Okay, maybe not the 6+ miles.)

    So much of children’s “leisure” time needs parental involvement…tai kwando lessons on the other side of town, soccer practice so soon after music lessons to leave no time for the kid to walk…that parents’ lives really do revolve around the kids. If we want to meet other adults, the soccer sidelines are our best bet.

    Parents need to get lives of their own.

  19. Stephanie July 18, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

    My kids are some of the few in our neighborhood who walk to school unescorted by a parent. I’ll be walking with them for a little this year, just to get my kindergartener acclimated and to make sure she understands how very careful you have to be when crossing the street to the school – parents driving their kids to school are awful at paying attention to walkers. I keep telling neighbors that their kids are welcome to join mine, but so far they all feel it’s safer if they walk with their kids or drive them the less than quarter mile to the school.

  20. Elizabeth July 18, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Europeans are generally better about kids being more independent, I think, but Sweden isn’t all sunshine and roses as far as parental rights go. They actively persecute homeschoolers in the legal system, to the point that many home-schooling families have actually left the country. It would be nice if, in recognizing that most parents aren’t going to do anything to the detriment of their child, they could also recognize that this extends into the realm of education.

  21. SKL July 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    It is a good point that some kids and parents might walk together simply because it is a nice time to spend together. I can’t do that for several reasons, but I am sure my daughters would love it, at least at their current age, at least some of the time. 🙂

    Some of my kids’ 2nd grade classmates were walked into the school by their moms. One, I assume because his mom volunteered at the school. Another lives across the street and I’m not sure if it was because of the hairy drop-off line or because he has been a victim of taunting / possible bullying.

  22. Suze July 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Tiny tim …. I walked 4 miles a day and can do it in an hour. I guess I must have a better than average gait !!!

    I’m shocked whenever I hear stories of children walking and adults intervening thinking they are in peril. Honestly, folks. If the child or children were actually ‘in’ peril, don’t you think they would be displaying this? Just general walking doesn’t mean a child is in danger. I just shake my head.

    My next door neighbour’s 4th child just graduated from high school. I can count on my fingers how many times since she had her first one (that started school in the early 90’s) that I’ve seen those kids walk to or from school. And they had a 30 minute walk by the time they were in the 7th grade and to high school. My son walked all the time other than in inclement weather when it was the middle of winter and -30C. out. The neighbour used to pick my son up and give him a ride on occasion if she was passing by him with her kids in the car (and I dare say my son could be lazy and accepted the ride) And no fear of “accepting a ride” either as these were decent people we had lived beside for years.

    Some parents think their kids legs are going to fall off if they have to walk a block !!! Geez, louise.

  23. k July 18, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    At the other school near us, parents drive their children to school, park illegally if they can’t find a spot, and walk their children TOO THE CLASSROOM. Ridiculous.

    A friend living in a school district in the county says the school has BANNED kids walking to school altogether. Apparently a child was hit and killed by a car in the past. The school absolutely will not release kids to walk home without an adult, not even the fifth graders. When I asked my friend what the school would do if a parent ignored the rule and let the kids walk from home to school without an adult, she said she was sure the staff would contact the parent. Which is also ridiculous. As long as my kid shoes up on time, it’s none of the schools business how I choose to get them there.

  24. K2 July 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm #

    I think the children in the neighborhood are already somewhat scarce and that negative effects are already setting in. The children are not just all at daycare. There are actually less of them. The first negative effects of having less children have to do with the government entitlement funds, like Social Security, but there are others that will ultimately make the country less competitive.

  25. hineata July 18, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

    I used to walk with my kids too, just for the fitness and fun aspect. Occasionally to the classroom as well if they wanted me to see work, or I wanted to see the teacher 🙂 .

    Even walked again with the fourteen year old last term part way, just for fitness for both of us (here’s in prep. for a two day tramp into what turned out to be very rocky country, so a smooth city street was kind of sucky prep., but hey, better than nothing lol!).

    So good on the Swiss, but I like to walk with the family sometimes, and safety plays no part in that 🙂

  26. Kate July 18, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

    I live in Switzerland, too, and every year my daughter’s school sends a letter out to parents reminding them that they would prefer it if they didn’t drive their kids to school. The reasons stated in the letter include the obvious one of increased danger to other children from the extra cars on the road as well as those blocking the street etc.

    But the letter also always mentions the increased health benefits for the kids if they walk, as well as enhanced independence and, in true free-range spirit, the opportunity for kids to be without parental control just for a little while, so that they have to learn how to negotiate not just the physical journey to school but also their relationships with the other kids on the way to and from school.

    Having grown up with this system, my now nine-year old daughter thinks this is, of course, completely normal. And so do I, which makes it more of a shock when we visit Australia and see the long queues of cars outside schools and very few children out by themselves or with friends making their own way to school.

  27. Kimberly July 18, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I lived with my grandmother growing up, from Kindergarten to High-School she had me walk, and later ride my bike. Regardless of the distance. I vividly remember once wiping out, pretty badly, and walking my bike back home, thinking that this would get me out of school for the day.. Nope. She bandaged me up, wrote me an late note explaining why I was late and sent me on my way. This was 90’s Southern California, but I am that way with my kids, too. They ride their bikes to school, or walk, and we live a mile from the school (We’re in Northern California now). However when we were in South Carolina, living a mile from the school there as well, we were harassed about walking to school, we were the only ones to walk, and I was not allowed to walk into the school, only to the street before the school and await an attendant to take them in because I refused a background check.

  28. SKL July 18, 2014 at 5:56 pm #

    City planning is largely to blame, or whatever you call it when they consolidate schools etc. so that a 5yo’s school is several miles away from his house.

    Maybe it was busing that started it. When I was a kid, everyone in the city lived within walking distance of the public school they would attend. Then some judge decided they needed to racially integrate the schools, resulting on kids from the “west side” having to take buses to the “east side” etc. It was poorly planned and poorly implemented and there was fallout of many kinds. The concept of a neighborhood school pretty much died there for many communities.

  29. Papilio July 18, 2014 at 7:08 pm #

    I’m still amazed that walking can be something unusual to people. It’s almost as if they believe they live on Mars and can’t leave their bubble in something other than an air-containing car.
    And yes, often the driving parents are the most dangerous for the kids arriving on foot/bike, it’s such a pity (because counterproductive) that the common solution is to remove the vulnerable party from the situation and not the actual danger.

    @SKL: I count 8 countries in 14 days – must’ve been quite a hasty citytrip!
    Ah, so “we” are on the to-do list (yes, you guessed it, that was what I was curious about 🙂 ). One tip if and when you visit NL: DO rent bicycles. Forget the coffeeshops and redlight district, especially in a FRK context you should see how traffic/cities work(s) from that perspective (though you might want to do it, eh, not in downtown Amsterdam, for the sake of both you tourists AND us locals 🙂 ).

    @Kimberley: My father (like many others then and now) used to cycle to school as a teen. One day the weather was quite bad, but he and a buddy still decided not to take the (public) bus like the other wussy kids from their village. They were just on their way when they saw a neighborhood girl coming their way (so going home instead of to school), completely wet and covered in mud: the wind had blown her off the cyclepath into the adjacent canal! (I assume she too took the bus the second attempt to go to school 😛 )

  30. SOA July 18, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    Only a few parents walk their kids to school morning and afternoon at our school and I am one of them. 🙂 I wish I could trust them to do it 100% alone but we are not there yet. My son with autism just is not ready yet. If both of them were like my other son, I would have them do it alone. He is super responsible about watching for cars and I trust him. But even me walking with them is better than the other parents that line up burning gas for 30 minutes in the car line up every day.

  31. Crystal July 19, 2014 at 12:03 am #

    We also live outside of the U.S. (England), but here it is just as bad as America concerning free-range lifestyles. Maybe even worse. My son’s school has rules about what age a child can walk to school, what age they can leave school without a nanny, etc. And they’re ridiculous, in my opinion.

  32. SKL July 19, 2014 at 12:04 am #

    Some of these stories bring back memories. I always walked to school, from KG thru high school, 180 days per year. Snow, ice, rain, cold, hot, it didn’t matter. One day in high school I got halfway to school (it was about a mile walk total) and suddenly there was a cloudburst. My clothes were drenched through to the skin, dripping and there was no way I could go to school like that. I went home and changed. The sky had cleared and I set off. Once again, halfway to school there was an unexpected cloudburst. (I did not own an umbrella or raincoat.) Again I was so drenched that I had to go home. I didn’t have any more dry jeans, so I had to put the dripping ones in the dryer and wait for them to dry. I didn’t get to school until midday. The attendance officer was furious. LOL. I ended up serving 3 days of in-school suspension and was threatened with not being permitted to graduate early. All because I didn’t have an umbrella….

  33. Papilio July 19, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    @SKL: Aaargh! Hahaha 😀

  34. lollipoplover July 19, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    “How a child gets to the door of the school is simply none of the school’s business.”

    Or other parents.

    I don’t care how anyone else gets their kids to school. Whatever works for your family to get them there timely and easily, that’s your choice as a family. My kids pick biking and walking. You can drive them every day in a Hummer on your way to work. I won’t judge. Have fun waiting in those long car lines, I’m just glad it’s not me. I only expect the same in return.

    So when my kids are walking in the rain in their waterproof gear, I cringe at phone calls asking me if I need help picking them up from school and if I’m concerned that they will get wet. I’m not. Or that it’s too cold for them to walk in their high tech winter gear. They actually want to walk in the rain and snow and not wait in the ridiculous pick-up lines. The buses and cars at the front of the building present more danger to my kids than the walking and biking paths they use from the back of the building- no cars, just kids walking and biking.

    Teaching self-sufficiency (and letting your own kids decide how they want to commute to school) in a Drive-thru culture is not the easiest. Walk them, let them walk alone, drive them, I honestly won’t judge. Just don’t judge me in return.

  35. David July 19, 2014 at 11:56 am #

    Parents need to call the police on any school that refuses to release a child because the child is walking. Maybe a few school officials getting charged with a crime will wake them up.

  36. SOA July 19, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

    Lollipop: I always wonder if other parents judge me when they see me making my kids walk in the pouring rain. But I always bring them their boots and umbrellas and rain coats when it is raining. Or the cold they have their winter coats and hats. It is a short walk.

    But I know how some parents are today. They act like it is the end of the world if their kid gets wet or muddy. I do not care about that.

  37. lollipoplover July 19, 2014 at 6:41 pm #


    Last school year, my 7 yo daughter was detained 3 times for attempting to *walk alone*. I would never call the police on the school. I did have heated conversation with the office and explained that under no circumstances were they ever to hold back my daughter.

    The school aide that held her did it because she wasn’t walking with her sister. She was walking with other neighbors, but once the aide pulled her aside, well now she WAS alone. Her sister is involved in after school activities and the plan was on days that her older sister stayed at school, she bikes or walks with other neighborhood kids.

    The second time they held her back, I let them know they were creating problems and had no business interfering with our arrangements. Since they cut the bus service and most kids are on their own, the school cannot tell me how to transport them to and from school. The final time they held her back she was so upset she was crying- after all, she’s been doing this for almost 3 years now and could do the commute better than most adults in the school, she’s no baby- so I spoke directly to the school aide who kept sabotaging her dismissals.

    She said she didn’t feel comfortable letting her go alone. I told her that I didn’t feel comfortable with school staff undermining my family’s choice of transportation and parenting and if she ever stopped my daughter again, I would call a meeting with the principal to discuss. I think I also told her to see a doctor for her paranoia. We haven’t had a problem since!

  38. Adriana July 19, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    My daughter’s school required us kindergarten parents to walk our child to the classroom door then wait with the children until the bell rang. We were not allowed to drop them off in front of the school which was maybe 100 ft away. Forget letting your child walk to school alone.
    The number of kids that walk to school alone in the entire elementary is probably around a dozen. We’re in California in a very affluent, low crime area. You’d think crime was an everyday occurrence here the way the school worries about the ‘safety’of our children.

  39. Tom July 20, 2014 at 2:01 am #

    I am German but partly grew up in the US and Canada. North America has gotten paranoid. Very sad that kids don´t go trick and treating by themselves anymore as they did in my youth. Germany though is well on that path as well. I believe it is the life style. Going everywhere by car makes you lose contact with physical reality. You replace it by electronic media and that is what you get.
    I live in a small town in Germany and I remember when my younger brother used to go to kindergarten every day by himself. That was the early eighties and it is a walk of maybe 15 minutes. No dangerous crossings and mostly not along roads at all. When I wanted to let my youngest kid (5 years old) do the same thing the kindergarteners initially refused.
    They cited fear of “child abduction”. I asked when was the last time a child was abducted in that town? In the Thirty years war maybe? That one famously ended in 1648 and after that the town records are complete. They answered that they heard it all the time on noon TV news. A smart move by the TV companies. Which mother won´t stay glued to the telly if something like that comes up? And then you can sell them the latest detergent in the commercial break.
    Finally the kindergarten relented and let my kid walk by himself. I had to sign though that we take the “risk”.
    As to home schooling somebody mentioned above that it isn´t allowed in Sweden. It isn´t in Germany either. It´s part and parcel of the way the state meddles in the relationship between parents and children. Its gotten a lot worse in the last years and there is no end in sight.

  40. gap.runner July 20, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    Where I live in Germany the preschool kids who will graduate to first grade the following year learn about traffic safety to prepare them for walking to “real school.” A policeman came to my son’s kindergarten and worked with the 5-6-year-olds on crossing the street when the light is green, watching for cars, etc. They also practiced with their teacher.

    Once kids get to first grade, the school doesn’t care how the kids get to school or home. There are no requirements for an adult to pick up a child, even a first grader. When my son was in primary school (1st to 4th grade), we would get notices from the school saying that it was best to have kids walk to school or ride their bikes or scooters to eliminate traffic congestion on the street. The school was on a very small street.

    When I go to the States (southern California) I notice that people think short distances are enormous. I once asked for directions from a hotel where I was staying to a local car rental agency. The desk clerk told me that it was very far away–1 mile or 1.6 km– and that she could call for a taxi to take us there. My son, who was 9 or 10 at the time, said, “We can walk. We’re Garmischers.” I laugh when people think that one mile is a long distance because I run half-marathons and marathons. It takes me over a mile just to get properly warmed up on my training runs.

  41. pentamom July 20, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    SOA, I remember back in the day when every kid had an umbrella and rain boots or overshoes, and usually a rain jacket. Even the kids who had no better solution had bread bags over their shoes. (This was the early 70’s and no, this isn’t an uphill both ways story — I clearly remember seeing, and being fascinated by, the bread bag thing until someone explained to me why those kids did that — because they couldn’t afford boots.) There were probably some parents who would drive their kids on rainy days (I think mine did occasionally) but it was totally normal for kids to walk in the rain. Imagine that!

  42. Emily July 20, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    @Pentamom–When I was a kid (born in 1984), most other kids I knew also had rain boots, rain coats, umbrellas, and appropriate winter gear as well. In fact, a lot of other kids also had light jackets for spring and fall wear (I did), and this was normal. It stopped being as much of a “thing” by the time I was maybe eleven or so. By then, I was attending a school with a lower-income population, but more than that, for some reason, a lot of older kids don’t think it’s “cool” to dress for the weather, and they’ll gang up and tease the kid who comes to school in a rain coat and boots when it’s raining, or a coat, hat, and mittens when it’s cold out, etc.

  43. SKL July 20, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Right, I was way too cool for all that weather gear. My mom crocheted me a lovely cap that matched my new coat when I was 13. I refused to wear it because it messed up my hair. (Not that my hair was anything to look at anyway.)

    That said, I did not expire, because a 1 mile walk in almost any weather is not going to kill anyone. When it was extremely cold or a severe blizzard (usually a few days per year), school was canceled for the day.

  44. Yocheved July 20, 2014 at 11:14 pm #

    Totally off topic. I saw Judy P. at shul yesterday, and gave her your regards. I also had a chance to tell several other moms about your blog, and they were very excited! Keep up the good work, the movement is growing. 😀

  45. MaryL July 21, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

    This feels like one of those areas of free range parenting that is exclusively for those families of means. It is so dangerous for a child to walk to school in some parts of Chicago these days that there are specified routes kids are required to take, personed with adult volunteers along the way. We’d love to claim that this is just more helicopter parenting, but if you check the news, you’ll see it’s not. Being a black child in some parts of Chicago makes it impossible to be a free range kid.

    I would love to see the free range community brainstorm ways to help all children be free range in America, not just those who live in relatively safe neighborhoods.

  46. David July 21, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

    In 1970, it was normal to walk to and from school. I was 5 and lived three blocks away. There was a crossing guard at one street. No mishaps occurred to my knowledge.

    When my son started school, their guidelines discouraged walking without parents until grade 4. We share a fence with the school and the walk to the front of the school is about 200 feet. My wife dutifully walked him each way. About halfway through 2nd grade, my son decided to walk himself to and from school – snuck out the first time. I thought he was being sensible, questioning unnecessary and smothering rules. I want him to be independent, not a cowering whiner.

  47. lollipoplover July 21, 2014 at 7:41 pm #


    In regards to violence in Chicago, I thought this was so sad:

    “The mother of an 11-year-old girl who was killed by a stray bullet fired into her friend’s home during a slumber party didn’t allow the girl or her twin brother to play outside because she was so afraid of Chicago’s street violence, the girl’s great-grandmother said Sunday. Lourene Miller said that if Shamiya Adams was going to hang out with friends, she had to remain indoors.” – AP

    So this poor girl was not allowed to play outside and died anyway. I don’t know the answer to ending crime and violence, but I don’t think it’s keeping kids inside forever, where random violence still killed this girl. And don’t forget household accidents as a leading cause of death among chiidren. And car accidents. Living is dangerous.

  48. Andy July 22, 2014 at 6:09 am #

    @lollipoplover It still could have been safer inside then outside for her. It is game of chances not certainty. Stray bullet ability to kill you also inside does not prove that avoiding streets is unreasonable or useless when they shoot there. It shows only that the overall situation is horrible.

  49. Erika Meister July 24, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    My husband is from France and his best friend has three children. The eldest girl,who just turned 9, has been allowed to walk three blocks through her neighborhood, across streets with lights, to buy the daily bread for a year and a half now. Granted, the parents say that she has always been very practical, level headed and mature for her age. I suppose this goes to the point of, it is not so much a matter of age, but a child’s personality and maturity that should influence a parent’s decision to give a child certain freedoms and responsibilities.

  50. Dan July 26, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    I live in the UK, when I was at primary school in the 90s I was walked to and from school by either my mum or grandma from age 3 to 9 (nursery to year 4 I think that’s preK to 3rd grade but not totally sure) then walked on my own from then on.

    I live next to a primary school now I don’t think any kids walk to school alone any more, although a fair few do walk accompanied by parents or older siblings from the next door secondary school

    Our parents never took us all the way to the classroom except for in nursery rather dropping us off in the yard